Based on a Stephen King novella about a group of young boys who take a trek to find a dead body in the woods, Stand By Me is a touching, coming-of-age tale about four inseparable friends growing up in Oregon during the late fifties. With an extraordinary ensemble of young actors, led by the directing skills of Rob Reiner, the film quickly endeared itself to millions for its poignant look at the power of childhood friendships.
Four young friends, each with their own personal problems, set out to find the body of one of their peers, Ray Brower, who was tragically killed by a train and whose body lay somewhere in the surrounding woods. The group of twelve year-olds consists of Gordy LaChance, a kid entirely invisible to his family as they mourn the tragic death of his older brother; Chris Chambers, who has been inescapably branded by his family’s criminal reputation; Gordy Duchamp, a boy who was disfigured by his mentally-ill father, and Vern Tessio, an overweight nerdy kid desperate to fit in.
Many obstacles await them along their journey, including a fierce dog with an appetite for specific body parts, a swamp filled with blood-sucking leeches, and most importantly, a group of bullies led by Ace Merrill (Keifer Sutherland in his debut film role.) The journey is one filled with laughs (especially when Gordy shares a story he wrote about a pie-eating contest) and plenty of tears as each confronts their own particular emotional problems along the way. And the only thing that can keep each strong in the face of adversity is the undying loyalty of their friends.
For anyone raised during the late 50s, Stand By Me offered plenty of nostalgic reminders of the era, from hit songs on the radio to such childhood rituals as the “pinky swear” and the “two for flinching” game, all of which were fondly remembered by Reiner from his youth. Richard Dreyfuss provided the often-comical narration throughout the film, portraying the grown-up Gordy off-camera, now a successful writer who is reflecting upon his childhood memories.
Stand By Me did very well at the box-office, bringing in over $50 million and has since gone on to be one of the most beloved coming-of-age films ever produced. Never cheesy, never over-acted, its charm simply lies in the chemistry of the four actors who brought the story to life – all of which serves to remind that there is little in life that cannot be overcome as long as you have a few good friends at your side.
If Stand By Me ranks as one of your favorite films from the 80s, we welcome your comments as we tip our hats to one of the most memorable coming-of-age films of the decade.